Proteomics of extracellular vesicles: Exosomes and ectosomes

Mass Spectrom Rev. 2015 Jul-Aug;34(4):474-90. doi: 10.1002/mas.21420. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


Almost all bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotic cells shed extracellular vesicles either constitutively or in a regulated manner. These nanosized membrane vesicles are spherical, bilayered proteolipids that harbor specific subsets of proteins, DNAs, RNAs, and lipids. Recent research has facilitated conceptual advancements in this emerging field that indicate that extracellular vesicles act as intercellular communicasomes by transferring signals to their target cell via surface ligands and delivering receptors and functional molecules. Recent progress in mass spectrometry-based proteomic analyses of mammalian extracellular vesicles derived from diverse cell types and body fluids has resulted in the identification of several thousand vesicular proteins that provide us with essential clues to the molecular mechanisms involved in vesicle cargo sorting and biogenesis. Furthermore, cell-type- or disease-specific vesicular proteins help us to understand the pathophysiological functions of extracellular vesicles and contribute to the discovery of diagnostic and therapeutic target proteins. This review focuses on the high-throughput mass spectrometry-based proteomic analyses of mammalian extracellular vesicles (i.e., exosomes and ectosomes), EVpedia (a free web-based integrated database of high-throughput data for systematic analyses of extracellular vesicles;, and the intravesicular protein-protein interaction network analyses of mammalian extracellular vesicles. The goal of this article is to encourage further studies to construct a comprehensive proteome database for extracellular vesicles that will help us to not only decode the biogenesis and cargo-sorting mechanisms during vesicle formation but also elucidate the pathophysiological roles of these complex extracellular organelles.

Keywords: intercellular communicasomes; intravesicular protein-protein interaction networks; nanocosmos; proteomics; systems biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / physiology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Exosomes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Proteomics / methods